With haste, Ash and I crossed the street to the police station. At the front, it was me who pushed the plywood aside. Into the building and I knew instantly. In the murk of that place, there was only dust. Odessa wasn’t here.
“She’s gone,” Ash stated.
“Yes. She’s gone.”
She’s been gone for a long time.
Kendall. She must have went looking for him. I knew how that would end. I could only hope she hadn’t been taken alive, as horrible as that was. I hoped it was quick.
I pinched the bridge of my nose, hanging my head, taking a moment.
People had begun to die.
“Time to go, Doran.”
I quickly rotated my wrist around to show the time. 8:03.
“Give me a moment.”
“We haven’t got one of those. What’s the plan?”
“It’s…” I looked up and around. Ash was lingering by the door. “Find Christopher. Kill him… He’ll have been summoned to the court along with Kendall. If Odessa hasn’t changed things, he should be waiting for us there.”
“If he was where Kendall is, he ain’t there anymore.”
“You mentioned…” I tried to recall the plans. We’d had months to work this out. “You said you considered escape for a long time, you learned.”
Ash knew my thinking. “I got into the emergency protocols, yeah. If he’s not there in one of two,” he held up his fingers, “count em, two courts, two cities, then they’ll move to the council’s voting chamber. Giant parliament type building. Increased security. In city one.”
“Then that’s where we go.”
We were out the door. I could sense now that the shroud I’d cast on Odessa was broken. She was predictable. It was the last thing that had been on her fading mind that she would pursue. Her honor. And who had taken it from her.
The plan was still in hand. Christopher would be forced out of hiding by his summons.
The worst-case scenario could still be avoided.
I checked my watch again. 9:29.
People on the street would pass us without a second glance. Ash, armed to the teeth, both of us in grimy suits. They simply didn’t notice.
It was Sunday, I’d seen. There were bulletins all around, holographic street signs and directories. Most were in church so we had the roads to ourselves. We were closing in, now.
Up ahead, past a useless parking lot, was the massive stadium.
Ash led the way across the expanse of concrete. What few people out had vanished. That was convenient for us but troubling. I didn’t want collateral damage, but I was expecting more. Perhaps some were already in hiding?
The council would have advised them to stay indoors, I hoped.
Ash reached the glass doors and held them open. I entered past him, pulling one pistol from its place, arming myself. The lobby was empty.
“How do you want to enter?” he asked.
“Fire off a few shots, but if you see Christopher, fire at him first,” I answered.
Ash nodded. He was the superior shot, so he rushed past me to the heavy wooden door which marked the stadium’s entrance, resting against them.
“Here we go,” he smirked.
Ash pushed open the door with his body and raised the gun.
Blast shields raised on the glass behind us.
He opened fire.
“It’s a trap!” I shouted.
Ash rattled off shots still. “Forward!” he ordered me, stepping through his door. I followed.
Into the stadium, Ash blazed away at the dozens of androids which sent a volley of red bolts our way. I ducked down behind the seats with the wall behind me turning to slag. Not able to look, Ash and I moved low leftward around the stadium.
Had to circle around, try to find a way out.
“The fuck happened?!” he demanded.
“Porter didn’t come through.” It had to be. Without Porter to implicate Christopher, he was still in the game. He would be predicting every step.
He wants to force us. Not to kill us.
We can’t let him win. I won’t give him the chance.
“There!” We were nearing the back of the stadium; an emergency exit was ahead. With no cover between the seats and the exit, though, Ash had to give me an opening.
He came up and fired, I made my dash.
As I ran, I looked. Christopher was standing at the lowest point of the stadium, behind a shield, directing the androids. We made eye contact over the long distance for a moment.
I saw that pleasant smile.
I hit the exit and pushed through, breaking the lock. I turned back and aimed. My little pistol buzzed with automatic fire, eating its ammunition. I could only hit two androids.
Ash ran the gap, red lighting the air around him. He fell through the open exit door.
I closed it and looked to him. “Are you alright?”
He checked and on his side the armor had melted away. His skin had healed back, though, and he was left without clothes there. “I can take a lick, son.”
The exit came out onto a ramp which descended to a hall that circled behind the building, small windows running the hall’s length. A person came around the corner.
They were wearing brown cloaks, their hood back. The guy, stopping in his tracks as he saw us, threw up a hand. Lightning arched out.
I pelted him with bullets, spraying up a mist of blood. He twisted and fell.
I replaced the empty clip. “There’s Magus in the building,” I said.
“Really?!” Ash asked, astounded. Smartass.
At the bottom of the ramp, I checked the Magi. He was a young red haired man. He was dead, but I didn’t have time to think about that. It wasn’t a first.
“Left again,” I pointed. We didn’t want to go towards Christopher.
All we needed was a window wide enough to fit through.
We sprinted for a long way. 9:43, I checked, in motion.
The hallway ended on double doors. I kicked them open wide, shattering the lock.
Ahead in the kitchen, every android turned and fired.
I planted my feet and bellowed, “Leap!”
With that command, the stoves, the counters, and everything jumped. A storm of objects intercepted their shots. Huge pieces of metal throwing themselves across the room, colliding and crashing. For a moment, the entire kitchen tossed violently.
In an instant, though, it settled. The surviving androids dug themselves out.
Ash fired at the ones he saw. He took a shot in his left shoulder, bone vaporizing, one arm falling, but not dropping his gun. Finally, he finished them up.
When I looked at him, the joint had reformed. “Only a flesh wound.”
We climbed over the wreckage and made it to the room’s other side, Ash’s arm fast returning. The passage there opened into a loading bay. The large descending bay doors were up.
From around one of the trucks parked there, another Magi appeared. This time a woman, she threw back her hood. Her determined eyes narrowed.
Ash didn’t hesitate. He fired on empty air.
He was propelled across the room, denting and bouncing off the side of a truck. I whipped around and there she was, lowering her leg from a kick. No gun in hand, I jumped onto one foot, bringing my other leg around. She caught it beneath her arm, quickly punching me in the kneecap.
I cried out as it nearly broke.
I jumped up, hooking my foot on the side of her neck and swinging. She was thrown to the ground. I rolled back, away and onto my feet. She vanished off the ground.
I elbowed where I thought she was and missed. Somehow, she’d put a delay on her reappearance, and came back where I had been facing. She clocked me behind the ear, sprawling me.
With me out of the way, Ash fired. The girl was thrown back.
I stood up and looked at her. Her cloak had grabbed one bullet by the collar bone, but the other had struck her face. She was dead.
“Fuck me!” Ash yelled.
He was on the ground by the loading bay’s doors, his legs twisted. He’d pulled himself up just enough to fire, but couldn’t stand. I could hear the bones crackle as they knit.
“You need a moment?”
He got up, standing crooked. “No, do you?”
We started slow and picked up speed as he healed. We came out onto a shipping road, highways above, faceless buildings to the side. A black alley.
We took that alley and ran. We got ourselves lost as fast as possible.
I slowed for only a moment to check my watch. 10:13.
Taking the break, Ash stopped me from continuing.
“Where are we going, boy? What’s the plan now?”
“We-“ I gathered my breath, “…I was wrong. Porter didn’t force Christopher in, so there’s no inquiry, no time waster, no vulnerability. Kendall will get dispensation and help to come after us now. We’re fucked up, Ashley. I fucked us up with Porter. I tried to smoke Christopher out with him, an inquiry. But he turned that back on us. With Kendall applying pressure, we can’t just go into hiding. We can’t wait for Christopher to show his belly. We have to toss the board.”
“How do we do that?”
I pointed up, through a gap in the skyline, to a line piercing the atmosphere. “The only thing left is a mad dash. The space elevator. Christopher won’t fight us. We’re going to make it. We can make it there.”
Then, to the moon.
God help me.